When I awoke Thursday morning to discover the news of Jared Allen signing with the Chicago Bears, my first thoughts were how contradictory the move seemed on the surface. First and foremost, age, Jared Allen is not a young pass rusher and his prime is likely past him at age 31. The Bears big acquisition of Lamarr Houston made sense in terms of Emery’s decree to get younger on defense, but Allen, although younger thanPeppers, seemed like an odd move. No matter what happened this off season, the Bears were staring Peppers $18 million dollar cap hit right in the face. After historically poor defensive stats in terms of the league and franchise, Emery needed every conceivable dollar to fix it. The Bears had a large number of free agents from their own camp to sign, some like Charles Tillman, great veteran Bears players for the franchise. With little wiggle room, Emery needed to release Julius Peppers, decreased production was a no go against his massive cap hit.
With a glaring hole at the opposite end of Lamarr Houston, the Bears went out and restructured Jay Cutlers Deal to clear $4 million, by converting it into signing bonus. A move that was built into Jay Cutler’s contract in order to secure extra cap space on demand. It was expected the Bears wouldn’t do this without a reason behind the move. After a few days Allen was signed to a four year $32 million deal with $15.5 million guaranteed. Seemingly filling the same hole Julius Peppers left, and the Bears in the same position. However the more the move is dissected, the more it makes sense.
Allen is known for getting to quarterbacks, its his specialty. High motor, great tenacity, and being disruptive towards opposing passers is what makes Allen different than Peppers. Allen’s major area of concern though lies in his propensity to play so many downs. Entering the NFL in 2004 with Kansas City means Allen has put many miles on his body, playing 93 percent of the Vikings defensive snaps over his six years with the team. Eventually everyone starts to break down, and the big concern with Allen is going to be how long can he keep playing at a high level. He is two seasons removed from an incredible 2011 campaign where he accumulated 22 sacks. Allen has been remarkably durable in his time in the league playing all sixteen games every year with the Vikings, a fact I’m sure the Bears were carefully considering. Maybe, however the plan for Allen is not to play so many snaps.
Seattle played a similar card to what the Bears should be looking at as a guide for Allen. Allen still had 11.5 sacks last season, and the Bears are hoping he can continue to get into the backfield. The best chance for doing so however may be to limit his snap counts. Allowing Allen to be a pivotal part of a defensive line rotation could highly rejuvenate him, allowing for him to be what he is, a pass rush specialist. Willie Young and Lamarr Houston are notably stout against the run. During passing situations it makes sense to play Allen and kick Lamarr Houston inside to defensive tackle, and allow them to go hunting quarterbacks. Giving Allen more time between downs will allow him to take a rest, and allow for other players on the line the same benefit. Keeping the line fresh means the opposing offensive line is going to have to deal with one of the league’s most feared pass rushers on fresh legs.
Pairing Lamarr Houston, and Jared Allen could be a great move by Phil Emery. The signing of Houston while great for the run defense, didn’t leave much to be desired in the sack category, and although he has good stats in terms of pressures and hurries, he didn’t get home as often as fans were praying for. The moment Allen was signed, the two player acquisitions were clearly a package. The two players compliment each other. Lamarr’s pressure and hurries, means Allen has a guy on the opposite side to help collapse the pocket. It takes pressure off of the older Allen, and with a good rotation featuring Israel Idonije, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young; Allen should be licking his chops. The Bears just have to hope he can continue to contribute at a the level he has all along. Make no mistake the Bears still need depth and help on the interior of the line, but Allen gives the Bears a piece they were missing last year. This signing will give Emery great flexibility in the draft, and maybe can focus on the back end of the defense rather than being forced to draft a need at defensive tackle, thanks to Lamarr’s ability to slide inside.